Hoppy and happy - Major League Fishing

Hoppy and happy

Frogs help Stren anglers capitalize on Potomac topwater bite
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Despite a slow start, top pro Bruce Neal found a 20-pound 12-ounce stringer to lead his division. Photo by David A. Brown.
October 15, 2008 • David A. Brown • Toyota Series

MARBURY, Md. – If catch reports from day one of the Stren Series Northern Division tournament on the Potomac River are any indication, frogs must have the worst job in the world.

Good news for bass: The vast fields of densely growing, frequently matted vegetation hold thousands of real frogs after which several companies pattern their lures. Good news for anglers: Bass can’t always tell the difference.

Indeed, a good topwater bite seemed to span the entire day with early and late flurries around the tide Frog lures worked across the tops of Potomac River grass proved highly effective for several anglers.changes. Frogs of various design commonly drew incredibly violent strikes, often with bass leaping clear of the water to pounce on the amphibian imposters.

Anglers also reported good action on poppers, and the difference was depth. Fishermen fared best with poppers when sufficient water topped the grass. Shallow conditions, however, called for working frogs right across the vegetation.

Although some elected to run 10 miles or more, anglers didn’t have to look far to find frog-friendly grass, as milfoil and hydrilla choke the shallows starting right outside the launch site at Smallwood State Park. Throughout the Potomac, this vegetation also provides bass with a buffet of shad, crawfish and other forage, while offering safe nursery grounds for the next generation of largemouths.

Pro Michael Hall showed the crowd a large crawfish that one of his bass spit up.New Jersey pro Michael Iaconelli – currently in 12th place with 14-11 – explained the significance of the aquatic weeds collectively called “grass”: “If you look at other rivers on the East Coast, the fish don’t have such dense (growth) of milfoil and hydrilla. That’s really what makes this river so dynamic. The bass fry have a chance to grow big before they get eaten up.

“That’s why no matter how many times we come here, it’s always good because the grass stays. The worst thing that could happen here would be for the grass to go away.”

Neal on top

Leading the pro field, Bruce Neal of Manheim, Pa., bagged a limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces. Neal said he struggled early, but soon got his game on track with several big fish.

“I got off to a rough start. I only caught two of the first 17 fish that blew up on my bait, and they were just small ones,” he said.

Fortunately for Neal, his next spot yielded two of his weight fish. When competitive company becameAfter taking the pro lead, Bruce Neal gets a bucket of water and Rejuvenade on his fish. too much for his liking, Neal moved on and caught another pair of big bass. He finished his limit at his final spot. Texas rigging a Senko and a Sweet Beaver produced Neal’s biggest fish.

Neal, who fished less than three miles from the launch site, said his bite was best in the afternoon at the start of the incoming tide. Increasing water movement stimulated the fish into an aggressive period.

“The last two big fish came literally in the last hour (of fishing time),” he said.

Pulling back on the presentation speed was intrinsic for Neal.

“I told myself, `You have to fish slow today. A lot of guys are fishing a little too fast.’ I focused on that all day.”

Dillow delivers second

A slow, patient approach led Chris Dillow to the number two spot in the pro division.Trailing the lead by 1 pound and 6 ounces is Waynesboro, Va., pro Chris Dillow. Throwing mostly topwater baits, Dillow found a limit that weighed 19-6.

Foregoing a tactic known as “running the tides” – moving upriver or downriver to fish the same water level as the tide rises or falls – Dillow said that patiently working his trusted spots paid off for him.

“It was just a matter of being patient and waiting for the bites.”

Hoskings runs into third

Mike Hoskings of Alexandria, Va., caught a limit weighing 19 pounds, 2 ounces to take the third-place spot. Running the tides enabled third place pro Mike Hoskings to stay on his optimal conditions.Throwing frogs and poppers, Hoskings worked with the changing water levels to fish the conditions he favored.

“I ran the tides today, so I caught them literally all day long,” he said. “I have seven or eight spots that are holding good fish, and I just moved with the tide so I didn’t overwork a hole too badly.”

Deale, Md., pro Bryan Schmitt placed fourth with 18-10 and Darrell Stevens was fifth with 18-7.

Best of the rest

Burley Warf caught a 6-pound, 12-ounce bass - tops for his division.Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series event on the Potomac River:

6th: Howard Hammonds of Portersville, Pa., 16-7

7th: Sean Stepp of Stafford, Va., 16-2

8th: Mike Balon of Clewiston, Fla., 15-12

9th: David Cioppa of Hopkinton, Ma., 15-5

10th: Thomas Wooten of Huddleston, Va., 14-5

Burley Warf of Moneta, Va., won Snickers Big Bass honors for his 6-pound, 12-ounce largemouth.

Baciuska’s early action tops Co-angler Division

Lynn Baciuska Jr. topped the co-angler field by bagging a limit that weighed 17 pounds, 11 ounces. Co-angler Lynn Baciuska Jr. topped his division with a 17-pound, 11-ounce limit and won the Big Bass award.Casting a dark-colored Spro frog and flipping a Lake Fork Packer Craw, Baciuska enjoyed his best action in the morning. Baciuska’s catch included the Co-angler Division’s biggest bass – 6 pounds, 2 ounces.

Baciuska said he caught most of his fish on the frog. Speeding up his surface retrieve to elicit pure reaction strikes proved most effective.

“The fish were out of the water when they hit it.”

Best of the rest

Derek Moyer of Alexandria, Va., placed second with 14 pounds, 14 ounces followed by Lew Jenkins of Waldorf, Md., in third with 14-5. David Benoit of Brattleboro, Vt., was fourth with 13-13 and Scot Keefe of Hinesburg, Vt., finished fifth with 13-9.

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler leaders at the Stren Series event on the Potomac:

6th: Robert Clark of Woodbridge, Va., 13-7

7th: Valerie Timofeev of E. Stroudsburg, Pa., 12-13

8th: Brandon Stapleton of Temperanceville, Va., 12-11

9th: Dennis Hill of Vinton, Va., 11-13

10th: Mickey Pettry of Manassas, Va., 11-12

Day two of Stren Series action on the Potomac River continues at Thursday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:30 a.m. EDT at Smallwood State Park located at 2750 Sweden Point Road in Marbury, Md.